In previous articles I have written about Microsoft Word, I have sometimes made reference to the way in which the arrival of the word-processor virtually wiped out the typewriter. However, as some of the world's greatest works were thumped out on these mechanical monsters, I would like to chart some key moments in the development of the typewriter to show how to make a basic timeline in Excel.

A timeline is a commonly used method of displaying events in chronological order. It is used to show information on such topics as a series of historical events, the development of a product or the results and winners of sporting competitions.

You might like to open a blank worksheet and copy the following to create a rather short timeline containing only three events, although this should be sufficient to give you an indication of how to put one together.

First of all you need to create a title for the timeline. To do this, select the cells C1 to G1 and right click. From the menu that appears, select Format Cells and under Text Control check the Merge Cells box and click OK. Type A History of the Typewriter into the newly merged cell and increase the font size to 14. Centre the text, fill the cell with a colour (pale colours work best) and put a border around it.

We want to leave a small gap between the title and the timeline, so type in the following (Obviously the cells will not be big enough to accommodate all of the text and it will overlap, but we will sort that out presently).

C3: First Typewriter Patented
D3: QWERTY layout appears
E3: Correction Fluid Invented

Select these cells and increase the font size to 12. Put a border around and fill with another pale colour. Go to Format/Cells (or right click and select Format Cells again) and select the Alignment tab. In the orientation area, click the up arrow until you come to 45 Degrees. In the Text Alignment box under Horizontal select Centre, and click OK

Next, enter these years into the following cells. C4: 1868, D4: 1873, E4: 1951. Put a border around the cells and fill with another pale colour. Align centre and convert the text to bold. The timeline is starting to take shape and we only need to add some background information, so type in the following (again typing will overlap):

C5: Christopher Lathan Scholes patents the first practical typewriter.
D5: Scholes creates the QWERTY keyboard layout
E5: Bette Nesmith Graham invents Liquid Paper, the world's first correction fluid.

Add a border to these cells and change the font size to 12. Fill with another colour and then right click and select Format Cells. This time in the Alignment box, take the angle up to 90 degrees. You can do this either with the up arrow or simply by clicking the diamond shape at the top of the Orientation window. Be sure that the Horizontal box is set to Centre and click OK.

And there you have a basic timeline charting some of the key moments in the development of the typewriter. This is only a very basic timeline, but I am sure you can imagine Excel has the capacity to create far more detailed ones. The creation of a timeline does involve some seldom-used features of Excel, such as merging cells and aligning text to a specified angle, and so it is a worthwhile exercise to undertake and perhaps experiment with.